DEVELOPING SCHOOL SURVIVAL SKILLS
School provides a common and important social environment for all children. As the normative sociocultural environment of the community, the school provides an opportunity for all children to be “socialized” to the norms of the larger community culture. This ‘leveling’ process may be difficult for children whose cognitive and behavioral norms have differed dramatically from those of the larger culture. Two primary adjustments are required for the child to survive in the school. One involves adjusting to the behavioral expectations and demands of the teacher in the classroom, and includes obedience to classroom rules, attending to task, completing assigned work, and exhibiting other skills valued by teachers. The other is to adjust to the expectations and behaviors of peers in settings where social interactions occur [e.g., free play settings]. Here children must learn appropriate play behaviors and develop friendship patterns.
Some children, who have been raised more passively or with more individual sovereignty, find such adjustments quite difficult. The type of school adjustment failures can usually be categorized as Externalizing and Internalizing patterns. Those children who are more anxious tend to withdraw from these demands, while those who are more aggressive tend to rebel against them. Of the two adaptions, those who rebel get much more attention and often end up placed outside of the school district. Most people concede that such placements contribute to, rather than reduce the problems which cause the maladaption simply because they diminish the significant prosocial relationships that can develop in the security of home, school and community familiarity. Further, the labeling that is entailed in the process of ‘documenting’ the need or eligibility for assistance is likely to deteriorate the child’s self affirmation and belief in the goodness of others and future prospects.
Social education is a term we have used to describe the process of helping children make the adjustments necessary to achieve in the normative culture of the school. As indicated, children have two basic adjustments experiences. For the school, there are three orders of intervention [preventative, developmental &/or remedial], thus there are six  basic domains of concern [see Table]. The creative effort is to fill in the table with specific interventions that meet the needs of children and the school. We have tentatively done so, with rather generic interventions. It must be noted that these basic intervention types may be used in any of the four areas, but the propensity of usage will probably be as indicated.
Modality: School wide • PAThS Curriculum
• Good Choice/Bad Choice Ritual • PAThS Curriculum
Modality: Class room • Prepare Curriculum
• Life Space Crisis Intervention Ritual
• Thinking, Feeling, Behaving Curriculum
• Psychological First Aid Ritual
Modality: One-on-one • Cognitive Restructure • Cognitive Process Correction
It is expected that these interventions, all of which are based on social learning and other cognitive theory, are adequate to begin to diminish the incoherence between the cultural [cognitive and behavioral] norms of individual children and those of the normative culture in which they live. It is important that social education start at the earliest opportunity since the experts agree that children develop a naive, but utile explanatory theory of how the world operates by four or five years of age and, while change after that age is clearly possible, it is an increasingly difficult and time consuming process.
In order to best ensure that the school culture is normative, and to enhance the overall acculturation of the child, it is best that these social education interventions be extended into the family and community at large.
Social Education is the term being used to describe a formal [conscious] method of communication. Built upon the cognitive and behavioral sciences, it endeavors to bring to awareness of both teachers and students the power of such communication whether it is internal [interpsychic] or external [interpersonal]. The elements of internal communication include thoughts and feelings. Thoughts include ideas, insights and propositions, while feelings include emotions, sensations, and intuitions or “hunches”. The human mind instinctively makes [or seeks] patterns out of randomness. Thus, random thoughts are examined for sameness or difference. Some thoughts are found to be “true” or useful, while others are found to be “false” or not useful. As these thoughts are grouped into patterns a belief system begins to develop. Groupings of “truisms” begin to shape the pattern making as the person begins to have “feelings” about the pattern; s/he endows it with value. S/he will then tend to find more and more thoughts to support the “grand design”. If valued strongly enough, it is likely that the person will ignore obvious incoherences in the “real” world and continue to believe their own thoughts to be true. This “mosiac” of beliefs may be codified externally as a philosophic or scientific theory of the world.
Externally, such thoughts are communicated through words, icons and artifacts, and behavior. People tend to act and communicate in a manner congruent with what they believe. “Beliefs and concepts about the world are linked intrinsically to our choice of words, interactions, and communication patterns” [Valentine – 1987]. While the actual beliefs may be sub-concious and the words are often ambiguous, they have substantial power. “For you and I belong to a species with a remarkable ability: we can shape events in each other’s brains with exquisite precision. Simply by making noises with our mouths, we can reliably cause precise new combinations of ideas to arise in each other’s minds.” [Pinker – 1994] Others indicate the power of word content [ideas -memes] by comparing them to genes. “…it is tempting to draw a parallel between the evolution of ideas and that of the biosphere. For… ideas have retained some of the properties of organisms. Like them, they tend to perpetuate their structure and to breed; they too can fuse, recombine, segregate their contents; indeed they too can evolve,…,” [Monad – 1972].
The effective use of this magical power to communicate and to “seed” the environment with memes of positive expectation, requires that the communicator be clearly aware of their own belief system and cognizant of what they are, in fact, communicating. Both the expected [although perhaps not conscious] impact and the impact modified by the potential ambiguity and the belief patterns of the receiver lead to the potential for responses quite different than we consciously would like. “If you believe that the student is incapable of doing what you want him to do, then you will not directly and clearly tell him to do what you want him to do.” [Valentine – 1987] To the extent that we work our “magic” by making noises with our mouths we create the reality of the relationship with the other. For purposes of social education, the most important patterns of belief are those beliefs about ourselves, others and future prospects. If we are to effectively help students attain self-actualized goals, which is really what education is all about, we must use teaching skills not only to teach content, but to teach the process of accurate and effective cognitive [internal] and behavioral [external] communication.
Finally, it is important to state that the judgement regarding valuation of what thoughts, ideas, and beliefs are most important is predicated upon effectiveness, not upon moral tenets. Effectiveness will be most often measured by external events – improved relations with others, more successful outcomes, etc. And the utility of these outcomes. The most basic defintion of utility is the narrow one associated with the nineteentycentury utilitarian, Jeremy Bentham: that utility is the pursuit of pleasure or the avoidance of pain [Fukuyama, 1995]. While people have been observed to purue goals other than utility, such a standard is the most appropriate for determinintion of the effectiveness of one’s belief system.
The process of social education is to help the student find effective belief patterns and effectiveness [utility] is ultimately determined by the student. Thus, a teacher may dispute the “truth” that the student holds about him/herself, but that dispute is likely to fall on deaf ears if the “truth” is ineffective for the student. Often, however, what we believe about ourselves is detrimental, and such dispute can open the opportunity to discover alternative “truths” which may be more effective; providing greater satisfaction and gratification. I may, for example, not be unworthy only unskilled – after learning the necessary skill – I am more likely to believe that I am a competent, confident person who is more successful in the world.
The expectation of social education is that the educator is concerned with two processess: one internal and one external. Externally, the educator will teach [modeling, role play, performance feedback, etc.] social competencies. Internally the educator helps the student 1) become more aware of exactly what their belief patterns or mental schema are in regard to self, others and prospects; 2) evaluate the effectiveness of that belief pattern through a more rigorous process and, where the “truth” is found to be ineffective; 3) consider alternative belief patterns; 4) weigh the likely consequences of each alternative; and 5) discover a new set of “truisms” [i.e., change his/her beliefs]. External processes are more preventative and developmental, while internal processes can be preventative and remedial.
It should be clear that the internal and the external processes are interactive. People are predisposed to behave based on what they believe and value and what they believe and value is shaped by what they experience. Belief about oneself, others and the future can change by learning skills which help the student perform more competently for which the “other” provides rewards – including improving your prospects; a more positive belief about self, others and prospects predisposes you to act more positively which is likely to be more “effective” or competent.
Culture is the belief system of the group and is communciated through icons, artifacts, norms, and expectations. Mental schema is the belief system of the individual. Both the culture and the mental schema can lead to cognitive errors such as automatic thoughts. The more coherent these two systems are; the more compatible [effective] the behaviors. It is when the individual moves from a compatible culture to one less congruent that the behaviors become less effective and fail to get positive reinforcement. The first, cultural change of significance for most children is when they enter school. Thus the school has a substantial responsibility to help the child become aware of their beliefs about self, others and prospects and to help them learn the skills necessary to survive in a different cluture. A truly educated person is able to perform effectively in a variety of socioculutral environments.
• Behavior is a product of the mutual influences of genetic constitution [genotype] and the experiences of the environment through sensation, intuition, perception, conception, belief & values. The combination of these influences and the attributions they contain predisposes the person to act in certain ways. The manifestation of the phenotype through behaviors constitutes the personality of the person.
– perception, which can be defined as the experience and recognition of stimuli through “feelings” [hunches, intuitions] – sensations – which make these experiences available for the process of mental codification. As a base process, perception requires the naive mind to seek for patterns from which to begin to interpret information. As the mind accumulates patterns and places values on them, such patterns moderate other experiences. Ultimately, one perceives what one expects to perceive, based on the influences of what one conceives, believes & values.
Depending upon the strength of the codification [mental schema] and the power of the of the new experience; sensation(s) of the experience through intuitive or rational means may modify the combined influences which focus or center the personality. A stable mental schema is one which works. If the schema is capable of dealing effectively with both every day and traumatic experiences, it is unlikely to modify to any great extent. However, most schema are open to some degree of question. Humanbeings tend to “doubt”. Perhaps because their inquisitiveness leads them always to consider other alternatives and their imagination is open to infinite variations.
– conception, which can be defined as the ability to abstractly accept the potential of a new idea, thought or feeling, is a requisite to belief and therefore to modification.
“Feelings” – emotions are the manifestation of value – one feels strongest about that which one most values – to “feel” differently about an experience is to re-evaluate one’s beliefs and values. Very strong feelings tend to inhibit conception as it requires giving up something with high value.
– belief, which can be defined as the operational reality of the person, is constituted of the codification of intuitive and/or rational attributions about which the person has “feelings” – or has placed value. The stronger the belief, the stronger the emotions connected with it. Even very strong belief systems, though inhibited, are subject to modification and influence through perception and conception.
The initial personality [codification of belief/value system and the consistency of behaviors which such thoughts predict] begins to come together into a coherent whole around four years of age and solidifies around seven or eight years of age into a naive world perspective. It would stand to reason that modification is easiest during this earlier development, but change continues to be possible at anytime of life. Obviously, long held beliefs and values are more difficult to change because they have offered some positive outcomes. The true change agent is a conception of a more efficient and effective belief. Therefore, beliefs which lead to ineffective or undesired outcomes are often amenable to modification. Trauma, thus becomes an opportunity for change since the failure of the present personality system to cope effectively raises serious doubts about the usefulness of the mental schema underlying the failure.
The modification of belief is related then to the powerfulness of the experience. Thus, along with trauma [the breakdown of effectiveness] the impact of an experience might be of heightened value if a significant or valued other is involved, thus overwhelming the influence of perception, conception, belief and values. The most powerful tool for positive change is a relationship to a person of value, for they can challenge or dispute the influences of conceptions, beliefs and values on the one hand; or they can help to reconstitute shattered codification on the other. In simplistic terms, the significant other creates a dichotomy in the mind of the individual through use of their relationship to that individual. Either the significant others must become less significant OR the belief system must be false – the two are mutually exclusive.
– value is that which is felt strongly about. Such “feelings” may be positive [love] or negative [hate] – each has the power to influence effectively. Our personality, to a large extent is a product of our loves and hates, as both feelings erode other conceptions, beliefs and values. The corrosive influence of hate is a powerful method to devalue one’s image of oneself.
• The way a person thinks, “feels” and behaves is interactive both with an internal coherence and with and external coherence. When a person has a conflict between the internal and external “realities”, they will tend to have problems in living. These “problems” may have external or internal manifestations.
– The significant or valued other is the most powerful positive force for modification of behavior.
The earliest value is likely placed upon the family, particularly the parents. The first “decision” one is likely to make is a fight or flee decision; thus one of placement of value through emotions, not rationality. Once able to extend beyond the immediate response [fear] of separation one then has the potential to experience attraction [love – familial, agape and finally erotic]. The primal – cutting edge – decision of the emerging personality – whether to fight or flee – may be the inherent quality of the person – or may be chance.
– As the person ages, the familial values are modified by peer values. Peers become the most important influence on the personality.
Acceptance or rejection by peers is powerful and can be extremely influential in modifying the personality.
– The next step in growth is to discriminate among peers; to value one over others; to seek significance ; to vest ones emotions.
Such vesting of emotions is a precarious act requiring, at least for positive valuation, substantial coherence in one’s personal belief system. Vesting oneself to another provides that other with power with which to modify one’s own personality. Thus, love/hate relationships are more likely to occur when the individual personality is fragile.
Hate is debilitating. Hate holds a powerful influence over the person while giving no sustenance. Even if not acted upon, hate can do nothing but erode the coherence of the rational/intuitive balance of the personality.
– Modification of any given behavior is contingent upon the coherence of the personality in regard to that behavior. On the one hand, the more coherent the personality, the more resistent to change; on the other, the more coherent, the more willing to risk.
Salient changes in the personality are resisted, since change requires a giving up of one’s self as a coherent whole. Since “I” am an entity of supreme value [supported by self preservation instincts], change of self produces fright as the emotion of valuation and resistance as the responsive behavior.
The person with problems in living, potentially even desiring change, is at minimum, conflicted, if not intimidated. To open one’s self to change requires a powerful belief that the other will “be there for them”.
– Developmental change is easier since modification of the personality happens over time and in context. Socialization, which might be defined as the adaption of the individual to the group, is one such process. If the group is valued, the individual is likely to make certain interpersonal adaptions in order to belong.
Additionally, the group offers variation of role; one need not be all things to the other, but may conform to certain expectations to perform specific functions.
Finally, the social unit offers the opportunity to “test” out behaviors without the intensity of one to one relationships. One does not need to vest as significantly in a group relationship; but one can investigate the experience without commitment.
An individual’s organizational integrity, personality or personal architecture starts with their major mental schema. This is a relatively pervasive and permanent set of attitudes, beliefs, ideas and thoughts which constitute the persons world view. The function of this individual world view is to enable the person to predict events and experiences in a way that will enable them to reduce uncertainty and increase control. The major organizational architecture is designed around the constructs of self, others and prospects. It is generally malleable when it is being constructed in the first six years of life. It then becomes relatively salient and increasingly resistive to change as the person matures. In fact the maintenance of the integrity of this organizational architecture is the equivalent of the maintenance of self and attempts to alter this architecture are met with resistance, unless there is adequate personal motivation and significant strategies for change. This schema tends to mediate the individual’s perceptions of the world, the feelings they have about those perceptions and the action that they take in regard to these feelings. Thus if the schema provides a distorted lens, the feelings and behaviors are also likely to be distorted. Skewing to the positive side of an objective reality, is likely to be significantly less of a problem in regard to problems in living than skewing to the negative side of an objective reality, regardless of the positive/negative value of that reality.
Such schema are built with individual building blocks of attributions ; that is, values given by the individual to events and experiences. If the individual has an experiences, they attribute a causal effect to that experience. The responsibility for the outcomes of the experience may be attributed to personal forces [e.g., ability and effort] or to impersonal forces over which the person has little control [e.g., situation or bad luck]. Thus a powerful dimension which would appear to play a major role in personality development, is the internal-external control of reinforcement. Generally, [although this is quite simplified] the person who attributes success to their own resources and failure to circumstance or luck, is likely to have an optimistic schema and experience satisfaction and gratification out of many aspects of life. Since people develop their world view over time and many experiences, the patterns of attribution begin to solidify and become subconscious.
As these underlying molecular mental representations are accumulated, the pattern forming tendencies of the human mind causes them to be increasingly formed into ideology; that is, generalized patterns of cognition of a higher order representation. For example, a series of hostile attributions occurring over time are likely to attract the individual to the notion that there is a pattern such as “people are hostile”. This pattern might then be generalized as “People don’t like me”, “I am bad”. One problem is that the ambiguity of language allows for these generalizations to incorporate different shades of meaning for each individual. This process can be compared to learning any skill, such as driving a car. “Driving” is a generalization which represents for the individual, a whole series of molecular steps. Some of these steps have important [contest] to what the construct “driving” means, but the steps have become automatic and take place without our conscious notice. In fact, if we are required to think of the individual steps, “driving” becomes more cumbersome. Research has indicated that modification or change of these mental generalities, requires a renewed awareness the molecular underpinnings [the automatic thoughts], a partialization of the generalization. This causes the individual to deal with the parts, and in doing so, develop a new generalization or at least a new meaning for the ideology. If you would want a person to develop a new generalized construct of “driving”, you would need to get them to “go back to basics”; in a like manner if you want a different generalization for hostile attribution than “people don’t like me”, you must re-address the molecular attributions of “hostile attribution”. It seems that addressing the “parts” is less threatening to the integrity of the “self”and therefore makes the individual more amenable to change than to address the ideology of the schema.
It is difficult to separate the cognitions from the affect. Cognitions mediate emotions which mediate behaviors. The way people interpret the world in regard to self, others and future prospects mediates how they perceive, interpret and feel about the events and experiences of their lives. If our schema is not providing us with effective predictive analysis, our anxiety increases. If our schema indicates that we are not competent, we are sad, and as our efforts are frustrated, we may get angry. Yet our genetic heritage starts with the basic emotion of fear; followed closely by what might be called anger. The instinctive decision to fight or flee is emotionally based. Impulse is the medium of emotion; the seed of all impulse is a feeling bursting to express itself in action. Cognition is a later addition which was used to queue action steps for more complex behaviors which took place over time. Such queuing required mental representations [thought] in order to store and release actions steps at appropriate times.Such cognitive processes thus played an important role in containing these emotions; or at least containing the action response to the emotions until they were appropriate. The very ability to articulate the emotion – “I am feeling angry” – helps to contain response since it moves the feeling into a cognitive, not purely emotional process.
Many people with problems in living have difficultly understanding their emotions and expressing how they feel. They go right from the emotion to the action; without thought. Therefore, helping people to identify [label] what they are feeling and to articulate the degree of intensity is an important step in containing these feelings and the impulsive behaviors associated with them. Anger, for example, can be expressed as rage, fury, wrath, hostility, malice, spite, ire, animosity, bitterness, and resentment. In all cases the individual “feels” angry, but the degree of anger is quite different between rage and resentment. Since self instruction is an important part of helping an individual “work through” changes in behavior, it is important that the individual have a language for talking about his/her feelings. To be able to identify that “I am feeling resentment and growing bitterness” can lead to the self instructive position that “I must count to ten, and then assertively state this to the ‘other’ in a way that is effective in reaching my goals”. Thus the development of mental representations for these “feelings” is a important part of being able to effectively incorporate alternative solution and consequential thinking into the stimuli to reaction process.
It is important to recognize that each of these emotions are perfectly normal although the context in which they are raised may be maladaptive. Anxiety, anger and attraction are useful tools for placing value on events and experiences. Fear prepares the body to react and focuses the mind to fixate on the threat at hand. It is not fear, but worry which becomes the problem in living. Appropriate fear, like appropriate pain may be uncomfortable, but it alerts us to possible dangers and focuses us to take action to correct the problems. Worry, on the other hand, has little redeeming value. While short term worry may be a process of examining alternative solutions to a vexing problem, it is rarely so, particularly when it goes beyond a reasonable period of time.
Two difficulties, therefore result from our emotional heritage: first, is the impulse to action without thought and second, is the cognitive “mulling” over the problem without finding solution. If we mull about fear or anxiety, we worry, get phobic or panic and in the extreme seek escape through withdrawal or perhaps substance abuse or suicide. If we mull about anger, we develop suspicion, hostile attributions and paranoia; and in the extreme, become potentially homicidal. If we mull unrequited or restricted attraction, we grow sad or depressed and, in the extreme, become potentially suicidal. Such “mulling” behavior is a learned behavior which can be relearned, although teaching young children to deal with problems, make decisions and generally increase their solutions and consequence thinking is the best method of emotional containment.
In attempting to adjust the molecular mental representations, the cognitive skill of alternative thinking is critical. Once the individual is able to conceive of alternatives representations for these individual events and experiences, s/he is then in a position to value and prioritize these alternatives and to make decisions about the effectiveness of the representation as a tool of prediction. When teaching abstract concepts, metaphors are invaluable teaching tools. In learning we change context by changing the strange into the familiar, as when we describe an abstract concept like gravity by the familiar human experience of attraction. In innovating, we change contexts by transforming the familiar into the strange, as when a bumble bee’s honey comb is used as the format for prefabricated storage domes.
Effectiveness of a representation within the mental schema is measured by the ability or potential ability of the representation as a predictive device which will lead to outcomes which satisfy and/or gratify the individual. If the evidence indicates that the feelings and behaviors that are mediated by the representation are likely to be more satisfying or gratifying than the ones presently in use, modification or change becomes possible. In order for an individual to project the potential of the representation, it is important for the person to have consequential thinking skills which allow them to predict the short and long term outcome of an action, as it might impact on themselves, others and prospects, before the action is taken. The ability to predict effectively allows the person to reduce uncertainty and to feel in control of events. The greater the ability to predict accurately, the more effective the mental representation is as a tool for quality living.
It is important to note that the reality of the event or experience is less important than the positive or optimistic expectation of that event. Thus, if the person tends to think of the event or experience as more negative or pessimistic than merited or even to see it as realistically negative and pessimistic; this is less effective in satisfying or gratifying the individual than a more optimistic or positive perspective. Thus to be slightly rosy in your picture of the world is vastly superior to being realistic in a negative world or viewing the world negatively. Optimistic people tend to act in a manner that “makes the best” of a bad situation and therefore tend to gain greater satisfaction from the process.
ANTECEDENT AND CONSEQUENT REINFORCEMENT
While the individual is a system or organization of parts, they are also a part of a system or organization of parts in the guise of society and its variable units. Thus, two other areas of social education are significant, both of which are provided by others through events and experiences. The first is reinforcement; most vitally positive reinforcement. Contrary to the traditional behavioral construct of reinforcement happening immediately after the act, the importance of reinforcement occurring before the act, is becoming increasingly apparent. This is accomplished through the placement of positive expectation. The research on this pygmallion effect, in which the belief of the “other” significantly affects the performance of the self through a self fulfilling prophecy effect [the belief makes the “other” behave in a manner which enables the expected performance to take place] is well documented. Thus, a teacher’s belief that a child cannot learn is tantamount to prohibiting that child from learning. Positive expectation cannot be merely “lip service”, but requires some degree of belief on the part of the other that such expectations will take place. Thus the “other” to some extent helps to create the future for the individual. Positive reinforcement after the fact, is merely “icing on the cake”; a secondary reinforcement which acknowledges the expected outcome.
It is important also to note that these others vary in significance to the individual. Thus the impact of the reinforcement is proportional to the value of the other person in the individual’s mind. Significance is suggested through intimacy and respect. In addition to the particle aspects, there is the wave or field aspect of reinforcement. A force field such as a family or peer group, or culture has power to reinforce. The individual person’s response to these fields in often uncertain, but they are clearly shaped by such environmental conditions.
INTRAPERSONAL, INTERPERSONAL AND UTILITARIAN SKILLS
Another variable to full functional capacity is the individual’s need for a repertoire of appropriate skills and adequate knowledge of when to use these skills. An individual who has developed a maladaptive schema and resultant problems in living early in life, is often deprived of developmentally learned skills which many others would have learned naturally. Thus intrapersonal [planning, problem solving, decision making, etc.], along with interpersonal [aggression replacement skills, friendship making skills, etc.] and utilitarian skills [life and employment skills] are necessary accouterments to cognitive restructuring.
Empowerment is not merely the attainment of the power to act, but consists as well in having the skill and knowledge to act effectively. Individuals who are given the authority to act without the necessary skills to perform adequately, often feel “disempowered” and humiliated. Thus, the balance of self affirmation must come through competence to perform, which can only happen through the combination of power and skill.
Since these variables of human action are interactive, there is no beginning and ending point in the change cycle. All of these factors can be used as points of intervention at any time or in combination. A change environment would require that all of these aspects are available to all participants on a regular basis. These technological constructs are not effective only in dealing with people with problems in living. In fact, they make as much sense for the management of health, education and welfare as they do for the service delivery. Developing a culture of positive expectation, providing the skills and knowledge along with the power to perform, providing positive reinforcement and the like are measures which enhance the functioning of any group of people.
CREATING APPROPRIATE ALTERNATIVES
Teachers identify certain social skills as Classroom Survival Skills and requisites to learning. With children who present challenging behaviors, teachers are in a no win situation when they are asked to control the behaviors which interfere with the ability to learn. Teachers are not policemen and have neither the skills nor the desire to control children’s behavior. Most teachers prefer to have students who are unable to demonstrate acceptable skills removed from the classroom. Over time, most principles will prefer to have the student removed from school. Teachers do have tools to teach students the skills necessary to function acceptably in the classroom. However, only the child can decide to use those skills. Children will decide to use these skills if the culture supports that decision through positive reinforcement.
Students, even those who do have the requisite survival skills, do not have appropriate alternative responses for their peers who act inappropriatly in school. If they attempt to question the actions of these individuals they are placing themselves at risk of ridicule or worse. Students need to have a consistent cultural rule to make good choices and resist bad. The creation and display of cultural artifacts and icons is important to teaching children about making choices.
Students are responsible for their own behavior.They must make choices about how to behave in school. School discipline does not control children. School discipline can assure that a child experiences appropriate consequences to behavioral choices. The more disciplinary actions are related to the learning and use of prosocial skills, the more effective they become.
- Students learn social and interpersonal skills in the same way they learn academic skills.
- Schools should be responsible for teaching social and interpersonal skills as well as academic skills.
- Classroom teachers are the best trained professionals available to teach such skills.
- Effective education cannot be attained if students do not demonstrate the social and interpersonal behaviors that are necessary to facilitate learning.
- The training of social and interpersonal skills must take place in the classroom setting; the primary location where difficulties occur.
- The training must be conducted by the classroom teacher as the primary role model.
- Training steps must follow the modeling [showing the child how], role play [allowing the child to try], performance feedback, and transfer of training sequence [just as in math & reading]
- Training must utilize “real life” situations that occur on a daily basis and must include daily opportunities to practice newly learned skills.
- The culture of our society, particularly in the inner city, reinforces behaviors that are neither social nor acceptable to teachers and other educators.
- The school culture [and everyone in it, including students] must provide positive reinforcement for students who make good choices about social and interpersonal behavior.
The overarching assumption which is implicit within the framework presented above, is that people make choices. Children need to have the information and skills to make appropriate choices about their behavior. The following introduces some strategies to enhance choices within the school setting.
• Clarifying social skills.
• Demonstrating social skills advantages to students?
• Identification of social skills that are lacking and need work.
• The teaching process: modeling, role play, performance feedback, transfer of training.
• Demonstration of teaching steps:
– “Stop and Think” …do I want to make a…
– Good Choice or a Bad Choice
– What are the Choice Steps?
– “Just Do It!”
– “How Did I Do?”
Develop a Discipline Committee:
• Establish a building-level discipline committee
• Identify the five  primary behavior problems that interfere with academic progress and classroom management.
• Develop Three/four step modules to address these behaviors.
• Provide modules, incentives and themes to the class & school.
• Include themes in classroom assignments.
• Teach classroom procedures for dealing with behavior problems.
– Classroom Components
= Positive to negative feedback ratio of 5:1.
= Contingency reinforcement
= Possibilities of “Response Cost” and “Overcorrection”.
= Classroom time-out, group procedures.
= Back-up discipline system: Principle, Office staff, Counselor, etc.]
= Teacher modeling
– Group Components
= Teacher or available person trained in social skills training.
= Peer group skilled and trained in the use of ignoring, supportive reinforcing behavior and modeling.
– Teacher Attitudes
= Every child is responsible for his/her own behavior and must have the skills to make good choices.
= Everyone has the responsibility to reinforce the choices of every student.
= Willing to look at child’s strengths.
= Willing to tolerate some negative behavior as long as it is decreasing.
= Willing to give the peer group some responsibility for monitoring its members.
• Review the steps of a specific social skill or general classroom rules.
• Each time the class demonstrates the social skill or follows the rules during natural transition times, a letter is written on the board until G-O-O-D- C-H-O-I-C-E is spelled.
• Each time GOOD CHOICE is spelled, the class earns one letter toward a group reinforcer selected by the class. MOVIE, COOKIE, POPCORN, etc.
• This strategy helps convey the Good Choice message on a consistent basis.
• The strategy is incentive based and helps teachers move away from focus on negative or inappropriate behaviors.
• The strategy creates peer pressure to support individuals making good choices; creating a culture of appropriate alternatives.
• Select a theme for the school such as caring, uniqueness, teamwork, etc.
• Define it – Caring is to show interest or concern towards someone.
Being thoughtful and kind.
• Suggest some historical models who can be discussed.
• Indicate the behavior: what it sound, looks and feels like.
• Research and cite quotes for discussion and signs.
• Develop student centered activities which sound, look and feel like the right behaviors.
• Research and identify children’s literature which deals with the theme..
Several theories underpin the cognitive/behavioral skill building program:
• Students need to hear positive notions about caring, sharing and responsibility so they can come to believe it.
• Under stress, children resort to behaviors that are most familiar. Repetition of modeling, role playing, doing and evaluating makes these skills familiar. Dealing with situational moments of emotion in the real world of relating to other during times of stress incorporates the skill.
• Peer pressure is second only to parental pressure in shaping the behaviors of children, and becomes increasingly more powerful as the child matures. Developing a culture of peers capable of supporting “good choices” is a powerful incentive for children.
• Behavior management through contingent reward is valid providing that the child has the skill firmly in his repertoire; contingent reward as a part of the educational process is strongly productive.
• Individual children who are already quite invested in depreciating themselves, their situations and their prospects need individual attention and the support of their culture.
Cross System Training Project
A large number of the children, particularly in urban environments, fall into a category of children who could be defined as lacking in “school survival skills”. School children are required to make two primary adjustments in school:
• adjust to the behavioral expectations and demands of teachers in the classroom:
– obedience to class rules
– attending to tasks
– completing assigned work
– exhibit valued skills.
• adjust to the expectations and behaviors of peers where social interaction occurs such as free play settings.
Students who exhibit chronic patterns of hostile, aggressive and defiant behaviors are less likely to remain in community settings.
Research has identified four overlapping hypotheses which suggest that such aggressive behavior may be the result of:
a) a social skill deficit;
b) positive or negative reinforcement;
c) environmental deficits; or
d) deficits in the cognitive processing of social stimuli.
Our experience, combined with the research, has identified a flaw in the present child serving systems in that:
1) the systems are not sufficiently supplied with people who can teach school survival skills, and
2) the systems are not structured in a manner which allows for easy access and availability even where people with appropriate skills exist.
The purpose of the cross training should be to develop a system for training an adequate number of people to provide SOCIAL EDUCATION across the state, on three basic levels:
1) Prevention: Creating a prosocial environment
2) Developmental: teaching interpersonal skills to a group of children.
3) Remedial: helping cognitive restructuring to a child with severe interpsychic dysfunction.
A secondary purpose is to provide these helpers to provider organizations on a temporary, as needed basis, in a manner similar to a “Kelly Girl” [temporary service] organization and, as appropriate, place them in the manner of an employment agency.
The emerging technology of cognitive/behavioral skill building is being perfected at each of these different levels. The most advanced is the developmental level where, Arnold Goldstein and others have established a fairly elaborate curriculum regarding interpersonal, aggression replacement and moral reasoning skills.
Growing out of Goldstein’s efforts is a preventative technology which makes the environment one of high positive expectation and reinforcement. This initiative, led by George Batsche, has demonstrated usefulness in reducing such behaviors on a school wide basis. Since we are aware that the student’s social environment greatly influences the level and intensity of his or her aggressive and violent behaviors, social leaning may be the most important determinant of both aggressive and prosocial behavior. Thus, this effort provides both a preventative experience for the children who may have such skill deficits, but who have not yet surfaced with “problems”, but also provides a supportive environment for the social education of those children who are demonstrating such behaviors.
Finally, the remedial level for students with severe behavior difficulties will require the continued development of cognitive restructuring in user friendly styles. While presently less easily available than the preventative and developmental levels, components from Kendall & Brasswell, and Seligman, Beck & Burns can probably be developed into reasonably usable technology in very short order.
These technologies are relatively easy to learn and at least the developmental and the preventative aspects can be taught to noncollege people with great effectiveness. The remedial level may require a person who is at least prepared to go forward with academic achievement at a higher level, but there is strong feeling that other qualities will be of greater concern.
With the availability of these technologies, it is proposed that the state employ a training resource to provide training and placement across the Commonwealth and across the child serving agencies. The training vendor must be prepared to teach the technologies to people who are able to identify with the children, express warmth, be objectively analytical, responsive, self-aware and optimistic. What is important is the personal style of the person who will be providing the social education.
The instructional techniques that constitute each of these skill training efforts derive from social learning theory and typically consist of instruction, modeling, role playing and performance feedback – with ancillary use in some instances of contingent reinforcement, prompting, shaping or related behavior techniques. The staff will concentrate on macroskill competencies (e.g., coping, negotiation, problem solving, etc.). This does not rule out the occasional inclusion of microskill training targets such as eye contact, head nods, and the like, if the trainee has some background in this focus or requests specific additional training in order to work better with an individual child.
The literature indicates that a wide variety of individuals have served successfully as skill trainers. Their education backgrounds have been especially varied, ranging from high school diploma through various graduate degrees. Although formal training as an educator or in one of the helping professions is both useful and relevant to becoming a competent trainer, characteristics such as sensitivity, flexibility and instructional talent have been shown to be considerably more important than formal education. Frequent and successful use has also been made of persons from lower socioeconomic levels. In general then, this project will use a set of skills identified by others as the benchmark for selection. These include two types of trainer skills.
The first might be described as general trainer skills — those skills requisite for success in almost any training or teaching effort. These include:
- Oral communication and teaching ability
- Flexibility and resourcefulness
- Ability to work under pressure
- Interpretation sensitivity
- Listening Skills
It is the presence of this set of skills which would identify participants for training.
The second type of skills, many of which are expected to be acquired include:
- Knowledge of skill training: procedures and goals
- Ability to orient others to skill training
- Ability to plan and present modeling displays
- Ability to initiate and sustain role playing
- Ability to present material in concrete, functional from
- Ability to deal with group management problems effectively
- Accuracy and sensitivity in providing corrective feedback
It is the presence of these skills, certified through behavioral observation of both mock and actual training, that will determine final selection for placement.
• Self determination means that, as a matter of principle, human beings are autonomous, goal seeking, decision making entities who have preferences in regard to outcomes, and that this understanding defines three  orders of individual value.
- The responsibility for growth and development lies fundamentally with each individual; the responsibility for providing opportunity for growth and fulfillment lies with society. The school must recognize this essential principle of individual responsibility and help children and families make better decisions rather than coerce decisions.
- The self determining person must sanction those who offer help. Thus, the onus is on the helper to seek legitimization from the client.
- Consumer sovereignty embodies the principles of quality determination as a preferential process, and it is only through the acknowledgement of such preferences that the school can attempt to negotiate appropriate strategies for quality outcome.
- Full community membership means that as a matter of principle, human beings have the right to live, learn and work in preferred [valued] environments and to remove people from these environments is to diminish their freedom. Increasing supports in valued settings is preferable to removal. Since the community becomes the source and opportunity for growth and development, the use of natural, rather than professional, supports is always preferred.
- Empowerment is achieved through the acknowledgement of self determination and the provision of opportunity and resources. Part of the resources necessary is the capacity to expectation [competence]. Thus the individual must be given the confidence and competence to achieve the expectations of the preferred environment if they are to be empowered.
- A pervading climate of positive expectation embodies the construct of self fulfilling prophecy. Placement of high positive expectation is a confirming and empowering reinforcement of the person’s best potential.
- Unconditional positive regard is an attitude, not a feeling., of a constructive nature towards the person; separating , when necessary, the person from the behavior. Unconditional positive regard recognizes the person as a human being capable of making moral decision and supports the dignity of the decision, if not the result.
These principles must be held as commitments. None of them stand alone, but prevail in a pattern of personal confirmation of people with problems in living as autonomous human beings capable of improving their performance through increased opportunity, knowledge and skills.